When you get to the point where the delusion is really starting to fit tight on you, that’s when you start looking for another way. We can’t sway in church. We can’t sing a song. Lord! Someone might look at us. Someone might be embarrassed and then mad and then not like us. So, is your freedom and your own heart more important to you than anything? Because unless or until it’s the most important thing, you’re gonna keep straddling both worlds and have quasi, half-way-out-the-birth-canal suffering, as you ignore the place that you don’t dare dive into. And here’s your opportunity, right in church, there’s the impulse – sway. Holiness, the expression of what we are, is no further than right in this moment, this body, this impulse. We don’t have to read a spiritual book to know that we feel like shaking our hips, you know? A good shake of the hips is worth ten of those books.
Have you ever fought with reality? Consider a day where things didn’t go your way. You’re running late, you open the fridge to grab something and that something spills all over your shirt. You get into the car and there’s only traffic and red lights. Each apparent obstacle piling up in a heap of “this shouldn’t be the way it is!” I shouldn’t be late, I shouldn’t be wearing a shirt with stains, there shouldn’t be traffic. This is the innocent yet delusional habit of the mind to carry an idea about how things should be and then go to war with things as they are. It’s as if we say to the Holy, “Your world is screwed up, it’s not going my way. What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with this world? It’s not conforming to my idea of ease and rightness.” We sit in a puffed up prideful place of “I actually know better than all that is how things should be going.” What usually follows is “And I’m going to attempt to bend things to this tiny will.” And as nothing bends to suit you, it’s painful.
There’s a move in there that’s kind of like breaking one’s own back, or like laying down, that says: “Alright. I have salad dressing on my blouse. Alright, I’m 10 minutes late and getting later. Alright traffic. Alright.” What has to die then? The one who is neat, the one who is on time, the one who is respectable, right, in control. To return to things as they are is a great reckoning as we break down all those ‘it should be different’ places and we fall to the ground in humility, fall to the ground of things as they are. Reality as it is, is constantly inviting us out of identification through the reminder of pain.
And we don’t have control over letting go either; we cannot will surrender. It’s an invitation for humility that even inside our own bodies, we can’t make it go the way we want it to go. This is not a mistake; it’s supposed to hurt to fight reality. Delusion hurts. And the delusion that we’re actually in charge hurts. To fight the nature of things sends us right into noticing how helpless we are. And helpless is exactly the relationship between something that’s convinced it’s separate and the Whole. The small self IS helpless.
This great reckoning is like a great undoing, an undoing of delusion and illusion – and we fight it! It is a sanding down to the ground, a cleaning out, a purification. When it has really begun to take us over, we can spend time in a stunned place, all of our coping strategies taken from us if we’re lucky. We enter a clueless place, maybe a dark place, and we’re being remade. We don’t yet know how to hold that beautiful instrument of our heart and actually play it, we’ve been focused on coping for so long. And now it’s handed to us in the dark.
To be prepared to sing the holy song we’ve come here to sing, we have to be entirely emptied out so that our flute is so clear, so empty, so offered, so filled with nothing, that the beautiful breath of God can blow through it and there’s not a single distortion. Just a wide open portal that’s done fighting for its own way, done fighting for how it thinks it should be, or how it learned it should be, how it read things should be or how its friends say it should be.
So maybe we can enter into the mystery of what’s here. Maybe we can stop calling what-is names because it doesn’t fit into the stale brainwashed menu in our heads. Things as they are, are just as they are meant to be. Every moment and every flavor of every moment, a gift straight from the Holy, the Holy’s touch on your face. We can be so nothing that no matter what shows up we can say, “Thank you, sweetheart, Holiness, for another moment. Another chance to serve you, to serve the glory of this love that you are and that I am.”
There’s an experience out of time when the heart is moved and it has nothing to do with any action or any potential relationship on earth. It’s not earthly. Suddenly in a moment we see someone’s beauty and pow! There’s that bowing. I think of Teresa of Avila when the angel comes and pierces her with an arrow. It’s like a swoon. When you’re at the height of devotional singing and it’s just too much, so you go, “Ohhhhh!” It’s like breaking open to something way beyond what’s here on earth. There’s a lot that comes when we see and are inspired in that way by another human being. It’s like a cookpot, like stew that has all these ingredients.
The first thing is the leaping of the heart, the “Ohhhh!”. Before it hits the mind, and invokes the fears, the desires and everything else, there’s that pure “Ohhhh!” And it is devoid of self. There is no “me” in it. It’s just, “Ohhhh!” And the beauty of marinating in that is that the hands are off it, the mind is off it, it is a naked on-your-knees swoon to the Beloved. Now that alone, you could just park your jeep there and have a picnic, you know? Ahhhhh. What pours through the door to the other world into this one in that experience beautifies, purifies, humbles.
It can be uncomfortable to stay there. We can feel young, stupid, caught, get-able, foolish. It can feel unbearable to be that naked before Love. So I want a pause here for that. I want to say, “Ohhhh! That!” That is beautiful in another-worldly way that does not connect with anything in your so-called life. It’s an experience of the ineffable. It’s an experience of piercing!
We can, if we’re lucky in a moment, allow ourselves that, allow ourselves to be taken by that, razed by that, ravaged by that. And as it comes and meets our instrument, boy is that a meaty place! ‘Cause here comes desire, here comes fear, here comes self-loathing. Here comes wanting to hide. Here comes wanting to grab. Here comes wanting to find out, find some reference points, nail it down so we don’t have to feel so exposed! Like, hi, here I am, and here’s my mess. How’s it going, duh? Do you like me? Do you want me? Please?
If we can stay with our paws off, attempting to nail things down, and instead stay in the unknown, what a cookpot, to not try to push the love away, manage it, master it, explain it, say “Oh no, she has a husband! So I don’t have to bother being open to that door.” Or, “Oh no, he’s 50 years older than me.” Or, “Oh forget about it, I’m too ugly for her.” You see all the little doors we escape out of to nail a reference point and get safe from that feeling of, “Holy shit!” instead of allowing ourselves to burn in the fire of that. So to unleash your heart in the world, this realm of utter devastation, utter ravaging, utter beholding and being rendered completely dopey, becomes your home. You are perpetually caught in being dumbstruck by beauty and love.
For this little while, I want to invite you to drop into your felt experience and let yourself float in the unknown. Let even the idea of yourself as a person be suspended for now, and look in a felt way into your experience. Let everything be exactly as it is, and touch with your attention the simple quality of sensation. Return again and again simply to feeling, becoming curious and letting awareness play through this sensational field. Let this curiosity express itself in a felt way with the exploration, “What is it like here, in this moment?”
Feel the body come alive wherever awareness lands and in this noticing let the body relax and open. The body can just let itself be here, feel open, and not have to fend anything off—profound receptivity–feeling or imagining the light of the Holy vibrating in every sensation. Let yourself be radiated by that, opening and softening and giving yourself such a deep break from what you call your life. Be here as this simple breath, this vibrating sensation, and this alert awareness.
Return over and over to simple sensation. It doesn’t matter how many times you get drawn away and return. Feel the world, the field, between objects and emptiness that is right inside of sensation as vibration. Keep letting the body open and feel, as though you can listen in a felt way and every cell could open itself like an ear, listening into the silence and vibration inside of sensation. Let your body soften and give itself to this field, as when you float and give your body to water. Let it be given to this moment and to this sensational field, letting your whole body and your whole being breathe in the simple harmlessness that is here. This moment of existence and how it feels.
I offer this returning to sensation and awareness as a ground when the mind gets going in one of those swirling, whirling hamster wheel experiences of stressing yourself out beyond belief to try to solve something unsolvable. For now pitch the whole thing into the ocean and drop into sensation. Even for the tiniest moment turn toward love and say, “You do it. I am unqualified. Here.” And let the body, where the freak started that turned into a hamster wheel, taste and directly experience that no matter what the unresolved questions, no matter what the agony, it is in this moment like this, and bearable. Call on love over and over and over, like an inner getting down on your knees, opening your hands, dropping all attempts to master anything or get anywhere different. Feel into the simple actuality of what’s here right in the moment.
Let the boundary of this that you call your body dissolve. With your eyes closed feel the field of vibrating energy that you are. Let yourself open to this unborn, new, not-known potentiality. Let your cells be impregnated by it. Feeling this river of silence that calls you down into itself, leaving everything else to just fall inward.
I want to invite you to open to, and to consider, what if nothing is wrong? What if nothing is wrong with you, and nothing is wrong with how things are? What if you’re not screwing up? What if things are just like this, and it’s not wrong? Maybe uncomfortable, maybe painful, maybe confusing, but okay. Let your whole body open to things as they are right here, tossing aside everything undone or un-figured-out to drop into this felt fullness of your existence. Say “time out” and drop into eternity. And rest.
Despite all evidence to the contrary that the mind might supply, simply submit and let yourself be intravenously fed by vibrating love. Let it pump through your arteries and veins. Let it pour through all your cells as vibrating aliveness. Let yourself lean into these words, this field of vibrating energy, into the Holy. With every burden that you’re carrying and every place that you feel like you’re all alone — let that place open and lean, like you are physically giving the Holy your weight. Say, “I give up” and let yourself ride for a moment. Let yourself be rocked by love.
Most of us have been schooled in a way of learning that is based on mastery. To master is to take a particular realm of the unknown and seek to dominate it with knowing. In our culture that’s the only accepted method for learning and for negotiating life. If you aren’t mastering, you’re a loser. The “me”-structure, based on the fear of surviving, loves mastery. It is bolstered by mastery. By attempting to master, it maintains its sense that nothing can harm it.
There is a deeper form of learning which is an undoing. Rather than mastering, we are mastered. This runs counter to and thwarts the whole structure and operation of the survival “me.” We can deny, skip over, or look away from little bits of being involuntarily mastered and call them failures, saying, ‘I’ll do it better next time.’ In this way, the self-concept can remain intact, as these anomalies and so-called failures are woven into the story of ‘me’. Alternatively, we can turn toward, allow and court this experience and allow ourselves to be opened by it, undone. Lucky are the ones who experience something in life that foils every survival strategy one has, and calls the entire apparatus into question.
What seeks to master is afraid, aggressive and completely unaware of the beauty around it, because it does not know how to stop or to listen. It feels that it needs to keep moving and mastering in order to survive, or else be conquered and die. It lives in a false universe of its own projections, and manipulates false objects for a false sense of security and dominion, in an elaborate game of pretend, believing “I am Superman.” Like young boys who play at being superheroes at recess every day, we say “I am big, nothing can get me. I am strong, nothing can get me. I’m smart, nothing can get me. I’m winning, nothing can get me.” In this game, for a moment we have a sense of control, and all while we’re on this little train toward the grave.
Living as love is about being mastered. Below the human being’s desperate attempt to master, is a recognition of the beautiful. The beautiful is a gift that is not given by mastering. You can’t master the flowering of a bud. If you try to force it open, you’ll end up with flakes of flower. And yet we try to master, because that’s all we’ve learned to do. We even bring this to the spiritual search, until the drive to master exhausts itself.
Where do we think we’re going? Where do we think God lives? Not down the road, but right here, at this house–this great hall of IS. If what we find here feels uncomfortable or overwhelming in any given moment, we may try to numb it, leave it, judge it, attempt to change it, or violence it. All in a frightened attempt to avoid being mastered.
We fight against being mastered. One need not damn oneself for fighting, and for not surrendering. What fights is beyond our reach. It’s a wild animal, and it thinks it’s going to die. It just fights until it’s bested. And when it’s bested, it finds out the worst happened, and it didn’t die. There was never a threat. The threat was an ancient ghost. There’s no need to hide anymore.
Love calls us out of hiding. That’s why it’s so scary. Something in our heart, below our awareness, wants to run to it like a moth to a flame. The beautiful! While simultaneously, something wants to run FROM it because it knows the jig is up. Love will strip everything you don’t need and leave you naked, clinging to the Holy.
There’s inherent failure in the human being: a failure to be invincible. The doors of grief, hopelessness, helplessness, longing, sickness, and failure are beautiful gates to the utter relaxation of the me. Yet we are taught that they are the last place to open to. Despair. Inability. Impotence. Weakness. Dependence. These are kryptonite to the fantasy Superman of the me. They fill out the beautiful land of our lost wholeness and meeting them helps cultivate mercy toward this humanness that we all share.
To learn by being mastered takes place right here in IS, as energies come to visit, right now. They come as teachers, but not teachers of the head. No mental understanding is necessary. If they are listened to deeply, opened to, and allowed to enter you, as Rilke says, ‘like a great storm,’ a kind of learning occurs that is nonverbal, non-conceptual, and in your flesh. Whatever it is that masters you leaves its imprint in a form of knowing. This is why people who have been through and digested great grief, war, tragedy or a brush with death, look so beautiful in a weathered kind of way. The human-beingness becomes soft and transparent and their eyes glow with a kind of embodied knowing. The ocean takes them and pounds the fight out of them. They become the ocean.
When this movement starts pressing itself into your life, you no longer fit into most spiritual circles anymore. Because so many want you to go up! And you’re going down. But this is a way. And it is a way that is utterly counter to everything you learned in this culture. Out in the world, or in some spiritual circles, you may feel like you’re not ‘getting it’, or like there’s something wrong with you. You may wonder why you suffer so much, or feel that you’re a ‘bad spiritual person. If you could just get that little bit of suffering under control, you’d wake up!’ But you aren’t going to wake up. You are going to be disassembled, and what’s eternal will dance on your bones. There will be no you left to congratulate yourself for ‘your’ waking up. What treads water as fast and furiously as it can, afraid it will drown, when exhausted, sinks below the surface and becomes the sea.
offered. so threadbare, the